Mining Cadastre & Licensing

6. Cadastral issues related to artisanal and small-scale mining

In many parts of the world, artisanal and small-scale mining represent an important opportunity to generate resources and contribute to poverty reduction in areas and communities without many other income alternatives. For this to happen, however, it is critical to facilitate the legalisation and formalisation of the artisanal miners, integrating them into the overall mining rights management system instead of enclosing them in a mining “ghetto.” The principles of security of tenure and transferability are fundamental to facilitating a transformation of informal and illegal mining into a better and less damaging activity.

Nevertheless, there are many examples of countries that have developed separate licensing procedures for artisanal and small-scale mining, gemstone mining, and mining of construction materials (for example, quarries). With this differentiation, such types of licences are managed outside the mining legislation and, consequently, outside of the mineral rights cadastre management. Practical experience has shown, however, that keeping these special types of mining activity outside the general mining regime can lead to serious rights management and operations monitoring difficulties.

First, and strictly from the cadastral point of view, to separate management across standard licences and quarries or artisanal permits always produces overlap because of lack of coordination between the two administrations in their procedures for granting licences. These overlaps may then cause conflicts and potential risks for titleholders.

Second, when these special types of licences are outside the general mining regime, it is impossible for the state administration to adequately manage the activities for issues related to environment, safety, health, and control of production.

Generally, in countries where the artisanal mining regime is outside the general cadastral regime, such a system has been adopted to find direct solutions for the small-scale mining sector itself, without evaluating the impacts on the whole cadastral regime, especially as they relate to security of tenure.

On the other hand, some countries permit overlapping activities by artisanal and small-scale miners within standard licences, conditioned on the previous written authorisation of titleholders. Although this measure is, in most cases, welcomed by titleholders in order to avoid problems with local communities during operations, it is only an operational solution if:

  • Cadastral rules clearly establish procedures to be followed and deadlines to be respected before granting an overlapped licence.
  • The geometric rules to delimitate the artisanal mining rights are consistent and homogeneous with the general regime (see comments below related to the geometry of the mineral rights).

Another potential solution is to restrict artisanal activities to some selected areas, delimitated and created by the mining administration. This solution could be valid if the procedures for the creation of such reserved or restricted areas follow the cadastre rules, in particular:

  • The restricted zones are created in vacant areas and cannot overlap with existing licences or pending applications.
  • The geometry of the restricted zone perimeter fulfils all the geometric restrictions imposed on the standard licences.
  • The restricted zones are cancelled (and the area declared vacant for new applications) when no small-scale activity is being developed within the perimeter.

The main inconvenience of these restricted reserved areas is related to the reluctance of small-scale miners to be limited to such official perimeters.

For more information on artisanal and small-scale mining see the Extractives Hub topic overview.